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Project in India voor studente Esma Karkukli

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Learning from Ahmedabad
 
Those who think that building within an already
existing context is a typical recent European phenomenon have to think again.
for although the first association with building in third-world countries is
massive context-insensitive housing projects, even there architects have to engage
in careful interventions. habitat, a workshop organized every year in india,
prompts students from all over the world to design such an intervention in a
housing project in India.
 
BY IVAN THUNG
 
In Ahmedabad the Indian le Corbusier disciple Doshi
built in commission of Life Insurance Company LIC housing. This housing had to
facilitate three socio-economic classes and Doshi arranged the modernist
project in such a way that the poor lived on top of the rich. A surprising
organisation, and this he could in the still class-sensitive India only justify
by painting the floors a different colour. Besides the unusual organisation,
Doshi intentionally designed the building to allow for extension of living space.
The inhabitants could thus facilitate family expansion by enlarging their
homes.
 
A fast growing city soon grew around the
neighbourhood, causing the ground prices to rise and the LIC felt the need to
densify the neighbourhood: from 320 to 800 dwellings. The neighbourhood,
however, had by that time already changed drastically. Not only had the
inhabitants extended their houses by closing up balconies, and adding floors
and rooms, also the initial class differences seemed to have largely
disappeared. Lower classes, influenced by the higher ones, had climbed the
socio- economic ladder, which turned the community in a fairly homogenous
group. Maarten van Dam, a participating student: “This shows that if you put
classes together in a way that they have to interact, something blooms.”
 
So how does one densify such a
neighbourhood? That was central question of the
workshop. B Nieuws spoke to Esma Karkukli, Maarten van Dam and Sofie van
Dorsten, the students from Bouwkunde Delft participating in the workshop, about
these problems.
 
LIC is a gated community and the surrounding
neighbourhood also consists largely out of gated communities. These gates are
meant to keep the homeless out and, more importantly, impart status to its
inhabitants. Consequentially, even if they wouldn’t have to fear for theft,
they’d still grudge to tear down the enclosing walls. Van Dam: “One inhabitant
said that, even if you would give him a million dollars, he would still not
give up the wall.” But also public spaces such as parks and malls are
surrounded by fences and have a security guard,
leaving little ‘real’ public space accessible to
everyone. Unavoidably being European idealists, some groups participating in
the workshop removed, in an attempt to overcome the harshest class divisions,
the protecting wall in some kind of way. If this will ultimately be accepted by
the community remains unanswered, but the insistence of the problem of the wall
teaches us how essential the social aspect of designing in a country such as
India is. As van Dorsten says: “You know that they have different values, that
they are not going to obey your rules and that they have a certain life-style,
so you really have to take account for that while designing.”
 
The students found it particularly difficult to design
with the people already living there in mind. Karkukli: “Building in the LIC
means intruding into an existing community that already has a tight social
bond. This community doesn’t readily accept newcomers. You must offer them
something very good in order to have them give up part of their public space.”
 
Meer informatie op:
www.vastushilpa.org/ international-studio.html
 
HABITAT is a workshop organised by the Valstu- Shilpa
Organisation, a non-profit part of Vastu- Shilpa Consultancy. Since 2003 they
have organized the workshop on a yearly basis in February. Bouwkunde Delft has
joined since 2010, and collaborated this year in the workshop with ETSAM
(Madrid), RWTH (Aachen) and several Indian universities.
Eerder verschenen in blad B-Nieuws 

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